Open your hearts this holiday season by helping families in need. Ladue News is partnering with CATHOLIC CHARITIES to help needy children and their families experience the joys of the season. From now until Tuesday, Dec. 20, LN is accepting children’s toys and books, as well as non-perishable food items. All will be donated to Catholic Charities, an organization that touches the lives of 157,000 every year. Items may be dropped off during normal business hours at Ladue News, 8811 Ladue Road, Ste. D, 63124 (near 170 and Ladue Road).

There’s a new winter destination in town: THE RINK AT MONSANTO GROVE at Peabody Opera House is now open. Ice skating against the Opera House as a backdrop is available seven days a week, with skate rentals, music, light food and drinks also offered onsite. The rink will remain open through Jan. 16.

Kirkwood H.S. grad and chef-in-training BRODY KAMPSHROEDER says he loves every aspect of going to work. He’s serving a three-year internship at the Saint Louis Club under the renowned PIERRE CHAMBRIN, who formerly served as White House chef to presidents GEORGE H.W. BUSH and BILL CLINTON. He reports to work six days a week, honing his skills at different stations in the kitchen. While at Kirkwood, Kampshroeder participated in the Alternatives Towards Learning and Success (ATLAS) program, which helps struggling students to achieve academic success and graduate. He also completed the culinary arts program at South Technical H.S. At the end of his internship, Kampshroeder is guaranteed a job in either New York or California.

Red-hot Redbird DAVID FREESE served as a presenter during the recent 45th annual Country Music Association Awards (CMAs) in Nashville. There, he encountered fellow St. Louisan LAURA GREENSPAN, who graduated from MICDS in 2005. Greenspan is now with Sony Music Nashville as a marketing/ sales analyst.

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE researchers have received an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study asthma and allergies. Much of the research will focus on understanding the role of the barrier functions of the skin, gut and airway in asthma and allergic diseases to help prevent and treat respiratory illnesses in the future.

A first-of-its-kind children’s therapy room is now at MERCY, thanks to a generous donation from VARIETY THE CHILDREN’S CHARITY. The Mercy Snoezelen Multi-Sensory Room, located in the hospital’s Behavioral Health building, is a safe and non-threatening environment for kids hospitalized with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. It contains a specialized selection of sensory equipment, including a floor water panel, interactive bubble tube, fiber optic spray, disco ball, Milky Way carpet and more.